Green Your Personal Care Products & Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid

Since we’re talking all about personal care products this month, I thought it would be appropriate for us to talk about purging out our bathroom cabinets and getting rid of products that we either don’t use or that we really shouldn’t be using on our bodies. One of my friends commented to me after reading the personal care product post last week that she just felt like throwing everything out and starting over.  Sounds good to me!  Let’s get started!

If you haven’t already checked out your products on the EWG cosmetic database, I highly encourage you to head over there and do so. Do I sound like a broken record about this?  I just think that it’s really important for us to be knowledgeable about the ingredients that are in the products we use.

Green Your Bathroom Cabinet

1. Start by taking everything out of your cabinet. I cleared off my kitchen table, got an empty basket and moved everything to the table where I could sort it.

2. Throw away anything that you are no longer using or that you shouldn’t be using. One of the best motivations to get around to finding safer alternatives to your products is to simply get rid of the product so that you can’t use it any more, and then you will have to find a safer alternative to use instead.

3. Be very selective about what you let back into your bathroom cabinet. I limited myself to products that I use on a daily, or at least weekly basis, and things that I know are safe and effective (except for a few items of hubs that he wants to keep and use – haven’t quite totally got him on board yet), the rest got trashed.  No “Maybe I’ll use this someday”, or “What if I need it for”… you won’t need it – get it out of your house!

All of the products that I kept are either one ingredient, (jojoba oil and shea butter), or homemade (deodorant and oil facial cleanser), or I have checked out on the cosmetic database (face lotion and toothpaste), and then my makeup, which I am still in the process of switching over, but I did go through and purge out stuff that I no longer use that was taking up space in my makeup bag.

Here’s what my bathroom cabinet looked like before. Yikes! It was REALLY disorganized and cluttered .

Bathroom Cabinet Before

And here’s what it looks like now. Much better! Organized and only the stuff I really use and need.

Bathroom Cabinet After

I just really had a lot of stuff that we weren’t using because I didn’t want to use it anymore, but I hadn’t gotten around to throwing it out yet.  My cabinet looks much better now, and is so nice to just have the things out that we actually use on a daily basis.

As I was sorting things on the table, my kiddos got a hold of a pink bottle of a mainstream brand (we won’t mention any names) of baby lotion and started squirting it onto their hands and rubbing it on their faces.  I turned the bottle over to check out the ingredients and just had to shake my head.  All kinds of nasty stuff like parabans, propylene glycol, benzyl alcohol, and even Red 33, that now I wouldn’t dream of slathering on my own skin, much less the sensitive skin of my babies. But this is probably the most popular brand of baby products!

Then a few minutes later I caught my son licking his hands off!  YUCK!  I realized this is one reason to really not keep stuff in the house that you shouldn’t be using, even if you’re not actually using it, you’re kids can get into it and help themselves to it.

In case you’re having trouble knowing where to start with purging your products and what to toss and what to keep, here’s a list of the top toxic ingredients that you should avoid in your personal care products.

Photo by chego101

10 Ingredients to Avoid in Your Personal Care Products

1. Parabans – Including methly, propyl, butlyl and ethyl paraban (anything ending in paraban), these are preservatives that have been linked to hormone disruption and infertility, and may increase the risk of certain cancers.

2. Fragrances – These can contain hundreds of different chemicals that are not required to be listed on the ingredients.  So fragrance just means that there’s lots of stuff it in that you have no idea what it is, and can cause headaches, dizziness, rashes and allergic skin reactions.

3. Phthalates (DEHP, BBP, DBP, DMP, DEP) – these chemicals, that have been linked to sperm damage and infertility, they can also be hidden within the label fragrance (see above). Phthalates and fragrances are both banned from personal care products in Europe.

4. DMDM hydantoin – A preservative that releases formaldehyde which is linked to asthma, skin conditions, chronic fatiugue, headaches, dizziness and other respiratory problems.

5. Mineral Oil – A derivative of petroleum this coats the skin like plastic wrap and keeps the skin from being able to  breathe and absorb moisture as well as release toxins.

6. Propylene Glycol – Derived from natural gas this ingredient has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema.  My sister is allergic to propylene glycol and found that it is hard to find conventional products that don’t contain this nasty ingredient.

7. Triclosan – An antibacterial agent – we’ve already talked about why to avoid triclosan.

8. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate – A detergent and foaming agent, it’s hard to find shampoo or toothpaste without SLS. Because it’s derived from coconut, some manufacturers or labels may claim that it is a natural ingredient, but it is the processing used to create SLS that makes this a toxic ingredient.  It  can cause malformation to children’s eyes, skin irritation, and is damaging to the immune system.

9. PEG’s – Polyehylene Glycol – PEG’s are used to help cleansers dissolve oil and grease and can be found in caustic oven cleaners – enough said – not something I want to be using on my skin.  They strip away natural moisture and can damage the immune system.

10. Any ingredient with “glycol” or “methyl” – There are a whole lot of other chemicals out there that should be avoided, and many of the above ingredients also have other names, so a good rule of thumb is to avoid anything with these two terms in the ingredient label.

So, now it’s your turn to go tackle your bathroom cabinet and get the nasties out once and for all! You will be so glad you did when you know that all of your products are safe for you and your family to use (and you won’t have to worry as much if your kid actually does end up eating the baby lotion!)

What personal care products are lurking in your cabinet that you know you need to get rid of?  What is the hardest product for you to find a replacement for?


  1. says

    I’m just in the process of doing this myself. I use baby body wash (a known brand over here but not available outside Switzerland) for both me and the children and their hair, and it has SLS in it so I’ve been looking for a new one. Even among the “natural” shampoos and lotions it can be tricky to find one without it. I tried using baking soda to wash my hair but it didn’t really work after the first time. Today I found some nice Weleda stuff and some by Lavena, so the old shampoo/bodywash can go out now. :-)

    Another place to check stuff out on the net is the “good guide” – type it in google and it should come up – they give you ratings for cleaning products and all sorts of things, not just cosmetics. I expect you’ve already heard of them too, but just in case.

    • Emily says

      I haven’t heard of the Good Guide before – thanks for filling me in! It looks like a great site – I’m looking forward to browsing around it some more.

  2. Lauren says

    Another great post! I was just in the middle of doing that very thing this weekend. I’m writing down your list of bad ingredients and re-evaluating what I’ve kept.

  3. says

    I’m sorry to say Fragrances are not banned in Europe. At least not here in the Netherlands… I’d not be consulting this list if the rules were good enough here 😉

    • Emily says

      Hi Alison,
      Oops, I guess the source that I used was wrong – thanks so much for correcting me.

      Maybe it’s not that fragrances are banned n Europe necessarily – but are companies required to list all of the ingredients that are found within a fragrance on personal care products? The problem with the labeling here in the States is that the term “fragrance” as an ingredient can hide a multitude of chemicals so that you really don’t even know what it is that you are using on your body. I have heard that Europe does have stricter regulations about what can and cannot be used in personal care products – do you think that is true? Thanks so much for you comment!

  4. Katie Mae says

    Did you dump your products down the drain and recycle the containers, throw the whole thing away, or something else? That’s something I struggled with when I purged my personal care and cleaning products. I ended up mostly just throwing stuff in the trash. :/


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